There was but one major global international soccer tournament in 2021. For some reason, the coach who inspired an underdog victory in that competition wasn’t deemed worthy by FIFA to even be a finalist for the organization’s FIFA Best Coach of 2021 award. Not that we’re the least bit surprised; we’ve long learned to expect the worst from FIFA.
In the summer of 2021, Bev Priestman guided Canada to a gold medal at the summer Olympics, the biggest title for any soccer team in the world all year. While there were major regional international tournaments (Euros, Copa América, Gold Cup), the women’s soccer tournament at the Olympics was the only major global, senior-level international tournament. Canada’s surprise win was a massive success for the country and one that should not be downplayed. And yet, Priestman couldn’t earn a spot among the three finalists for The Best FIFA Women’s Coach award for 2021.
Leaders on and off the pitch. The shortlist for #TheBest FIFA Women’s Coach 2021.
— FIFA Women’s World Cup (@FIFAWWC) January 6, 2022
Take nothing away from what was accomplished by Lluís Cortés, Emma Hayes and Sarina Wiegman, but it’s astonishing that Priestman was overlooked. The other three coaches have some of the most stacked lineups in the world, but it was Priestman who found a way to win gold against all expectations. BetMGM gave the Canucks +2500 odds to win gold.
The inclusion of Cortés and Hayes is understandable, though both have faults.
Cortés led Barcelona to a ridiculously successful season in 2020-21 — maybe the best ever — but left the club at the end of a memorable campaign that included beating Hayes’ Chelsea 4-0 in the Women’s Champions League final.
Hayes and Chelsea were the most dominant force in English women’s football in 2021, winning the FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Cup, FA Women’s League Cup and Community Shield for a domestic quadruple. But there is that small matter of getting destroyed in the Champions League final.
Wiegman is the most bizarre choice on the list of finalists. Her Netherlands squad fell to the U.S. in the quarterfinals of the Olympics before she swapped teams to join England. With the Three Lionesses, she’s won six games by a 53-0 score, but the competition wasn’t all that great considering one of those victories was 20-0 against Latvia.
Why Wiegman, who didn’t medal in a competition that was won by Priestman, was included over Priestman goes down as yet another example of FIFA not really paying attention to women’s soccer. It’s impossible to be surprised at this point, but the disgust only grows.
FIFA refusing to pay enough attention to women’s soccer to give out appropriate awards happens pretty much every year now. In 2017, even Carli Lloyd couldn’t figure out why she was named Player of the Year. In 2018, no one could figure out why Marta was a finalist (we suspected FIFA was trolling everyone). In 2019, FIFA couldn’t think of enough women’s managers and put youth-level coaches on its list of nominees for best coach.
The 2020 awards were the worst yet. Wiegman won Best FIFA Women’s Coach despite having a pretty meh year with the Netherlands, Megan Rapinoe tweeted confusion of why she was named to the FIFA World XI and Lucy Bronze was named Best Player for reasons I cannot figure out other than the fact she was the most famous British player at the time.
So no, no one should be surprised to see Priestman snubbed by FIFA like this. Would she have won? I think she deserves it, even after what Cortés did with Barcelona last season, especially considering the fact he’s now the coach of the Ukraine national team probably lowers his standing.
Things were only slightly better on the men’s side. Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel and Italy’s Roberto Mancini were the finalists for Best FIFA Men’s Coach.
These are the final three bosses vying for #TheBest FIFA Men’s Coach award!
Pep Guardiola | @ManCity
@robymancio | @Azzurri_En
Thomas Tuchel | @ChelseaFC pic.twitter.com/TUJiZZmUS0
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) January 6, 2022
Tuchel and Mancini make sense for winning the biggest competitions in Europe, and I suppose City was impressive in winning the Premier League and reaching the Champions League final. But where’s the love for the rest of the world? What about Lionel Scaloni guiding Argentina to the Copa América crown? What about Abel Ferreira leading Palmeiras to a second straight Copa Libertadores? What about Gregg Berhalter dominating Concacaf? (Don’t laugh, we voted him as our coach of the year.)
FIFA is and always has been Euro-centric, and these Best FIFA Coach nominees once again prove that. But when it comes to Priestman’s snub, it’s more than FIFA being willfully ignorant about the rest of the world outside of Europe, it’s FIFA once again being willfully ignorant about soccer played by one specific half of the population.
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